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Recently, a poster of a person introduced as the ‘Spokesman for Hamas’ was hung on the historical walls of Diyarbakır (Amed), which is recognised as the ancient city of the Kurds and the capital of Kurdistan. They hung the huge poster by driving nails into this historical structure, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. When there was a backlash, they responded by removing it and hanging it on the [also] historic On Gözlü Köprü (Ten-Eyed Bridge) nearby. They used drone cameras to film the poster they had hung on the bridge, which was built around a thousand years ago during the time of the Marwanids, early forebears of the [Diyarbakır] Kurds, and used the videos for propaganda.
So, who did this?
It was a party called HÜDA-PAR (Free Cause Party). Who are HÜDA-PAR? They are Hizbullah. The name for Hizbullah among the Kurds is Hizbul-Kontra. In fact, the person who founded this organisation also uses the term Hizbul-Kontra. We will come back to this in a moment.
After the poster incident, the concept of ‘Kurdish Hamas’, which has been talked about for some time, has come back onto the agenda. This is, of course, the subject of this article. Who are they, what do they want, how are they organised and who is behind them?
Although not the main subject of this article, let us take a brief look at the recent history of Hizbullah, or HÜDA-PAR as it is now legally known. For those who do not know, let us make it clear straight away, this Hizbullah has no direct connection with the Hezbollah in Lebanon.
The organisation by the name of Hizbullah was formed as a small group in Turkey and north Kurdistan in the early 1980s. The leaders were Hüseyin Velioğlu and Fidan Göngür. In the early 1990s this organisation started to be used against the Kurdish political movement that had developed under the leadership of the PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party]. Arif Doğan, who founded the state organisation JİTEM [Gendarme Intelligence Anti-Terror] and led the dirty war against the Kurds, admitted years later on a TV channel that he had personally founded Hizbullah.
Thousands of “perpetrator unknown” murders were carried out by this organisation between 1992 and 1996. Its hitmen killed people in the streets and hid themselves in law enforcement stations. In 1994, one of the organisation’s founders, Fidan Göngür, who objected to this situation, was abducted and never heard from again. Today’s Hizbullah defines Göngür as a ‘traitor’. JİTEM’s founder Arif Doğan says in the aforementioned [TV] statement, “Hüseyin Velioğlu was a close friend of mine.” After Göngür [disappeared], Velioğlu remained the sole leader of the organisation. The mission given to Hizbollah was to be a Kurdish weapon against the Kurdish struggle.
The situation changed after the abduction of the PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan from Kenya and his transfer to İmralı Island in 1999. Öcalan declared a ceasefire in order to prevent the all-out war that was planned. Ankara thought it no longer needed Hizbullah. Hizbullah realised this and entered a state of self-preservation. And a few months later, at the beginning of January 2000, an operation was carried out against Hizbullah. The leader of the organisation, Hüseyin Velioğlu, was killed in a villa in Istanbul’s Beykoz district, and his deputy, Edip Gümüş, was captured injured. Thousands of inhumane articles were seized in the villa, including videos of thousands of murders and evidence of mass graves, interrogations, torture by hogtying and so on.
In the meantime, Turkey was transforming itself. The AKP [Justice and Development Party] came to power in 2002. But it had not yet taken full control of the state. To counter the army and intelligence services, the AKP needed sects, religious orders and paramilitary structures. As with the movements of Fethullah Gülen and others, the AKP established good relations with the remnants of Hizbollah in order to find allies among the Kurds. During this period, Hizbullah organised itself under names such as ‘Charity Foundation’ and the like. It was not yet a political party.
The real reconciliation between the AKP and the Turkish state took place in 2007. In a meeting between Chief of General Staff of the time Yaşar Büyükanıt and then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, it was agreed that the AKP would continue as the government and would be allowed to elect the president, as long as it continued the war against the Kurds. Abdullah Gül then became president. The AKP gradually took control of the state.
During this period, regular meetings were held between Abdullah Öcalan, who was imprisoned in İmralı, and his lawyers. And in one of these meetings, on 19 September 2007, Öcalan used the term “Kurdish Hamas” for the first time. The AKP was looking for ways to suppress the Kurdish movement, and doing so openly. Meanwhile, there were elections in Palestine, and Hamas had driven the PLO [Palestinian Liberation Organisation] from Gaza by killing hundreds of their members. As these developments were taking place, a delegation from Hamas was invited to Ankara where they met with Erdoğan.
Israel was supporting Hamas in exchange for the elimination of the PLO. The inner state in Ankara, thinking, ‘Why don’t we do the same against the Kurds?’ began to hold successive meetings with Hizbullah members organised under the names of associations. Becoming aware of these developments, Öcalan said to his lawyers: “In the past, they were set against us as Hizbul-Kontra. They killed thousands of patriots, and the state turned a blind eye to them. Now even the courts are saying that this attitude is wrong. They say it was a mistake to use Hizbullah. Today’s team is no different from Hizbul-Kontra; the aim is elimination. The AKP is trying to create a Kurdish Hamas. They did not meet with Hamas in vain. Just as Hamas eliminated the PLO, they want the PKK to suffer the same fate as the PLO.
Öcalan, in the meantime, repeatedly issued similar warnings. He emphasised that this structure should not be underestimated and that it was those who were behind it that were important.
Indeed, on 26 September 2007 he said:
“Ten years ago, no one could have predicted that the PLO and Hamas would split and clash. No one could have predicted that Hizbullah, founded in the 1990s, would kill thousands of Kurds in the region. But now the PLO and Hamas are at loggerheads. And Hizbullah has killed thousands of our people, they killed patriots in the streets using meat cleavers.”
Abdullah Öcalan pointed out that the intention was for the vacuum created by elimination of the PKK in the region to be filled by the Kurdish Hamas. [He] said in a meeting on 27 December 2007 that this would be done through the AKP. He emphasised that this was not a solution, “but”, he said, “our policy is the most reasonable policy to secure a solution.”
As Öcalan was giving these warnings, the flirtation between the state, in the form of the AKP, and Hizbullah was continuing. Finally, an agreement was reached. Edip Gümüş, who had taken over the leadership of the organisation after the assassination of Hüseyin Velioğlu, was released from prison on New Year’s Day 2011. Gümüş was on trial for hundreds of murders. Gümüş and those who were released with him have not been seen in public again. He is still continuing his activities as the leader of Hizbullah.
Immediately after this development, Hizbullah, with the encouragement of the AKP, began to establish a political party. They became a party officially in 2012. The state provided tremendous support to this structure with the intending that it should be an alternative to the secular Kurdish political movement. Hizbullah now had a new mission. Kurds themselves, they resumed the task of assimilating Kurds into the state, but this time as a political party. But, thinking that they would be needed someday, they also secretly continued their paramilitary organisations.
Developments in Syria during this period and the attack of ISIS on Kurdish regions presented an opportunity for the structures under the Hizbullah umbrella. In many areas they carried out actions in support of ISIS. They distributed statements asserting the legitimacy of ISIS’s struggle against the YPG [People’s Protection Forces]. Indeed, during the Kobani protests [in Turkey] of 6-8 October, Hezbollah members who took to the streets killed dozens of HDP [Peoples’ Democratic Party] members. Not one of the Hizbullah members who killed dozens of HDP members is being tried today in the Kobani Trial, in which thousands of HDP members are being tried. Quite the opposite – they are brought to sit in the court room as ‘victims.’
It will be recalled that there were elections in 2005 after the Kobani incidents. And in these elections, HÜDA-PAR became a part of the alliance established by the AKP. They supported Erdoğan directly in every election. And they continue their activities from the same position today.
This is the short history of the structure called Kurdish Hamas. They appear as ‘Kurdish nationalists’ when necessary because their main role is to manipulate the Kurds. But at the same time, they are an official partner of the MHP [Nationalist Movement Party], which views the Kurds with hatred.
They entered the elections in 2023 in alliance with the AKP-MHP. The then Minister of the Interior Süleyman Soylu stated on a TV programme that their partnership with HÜDA-PAR was a step taken in accordance with strategic calculations of the state, and that its results would be understood ten years later.
Soylu clearly summarised the picture. He said that to block the way of the Kurdish political movement, ie. the HDP, it was necessary to maintain a conservative structure appearing to be Kurdish. As in the 1990s they had been given the job of hitman on the streets, in the 2020s they were given a ‘political’ job. Nowadays they are being nurtured like a virus within the Kurdish community, doing things like using state assets to Quran open courses in Kurdish cities.
Going back to the beginning; the attack initiated by Hamas after 7 October also mobilised HÜDA-PAR. They held demonstrations in many places. The banner they hung in Diyarbakır has a separate purpose. What they are doing is not showing solidarity with the Palestinian people; but sending a message to the Kurds on behalf of the Turkish state. They want to send the message, ‘We are here, we are strong.’ As weell as this, they want to make the Kurdish youth forget certain Kurdish politicians whom they idolise and replace them with the Hamas spokesperson, whose identity is unknown.
So, can Hizbullah, or HÜDA-PAR, be a Hamas? Observation tells us it is no secret that Israel supported Hamas in order to disperse the Palestinian people’s strongest structure. But as Hamas grew, it turned its weapons towards Israel. The Turkish state may also give Hizbullah the role of a “Kurdish Hamas” in order to disperse the PKK, but it is almost impossible for this organisation to gain popularity among the Kurds. It is also difficult for it to compete with the PKK. Let us these things happen; the Kurdish Hamas would never turn its weapons towards Ankara, because the command centre is already in Ankara. HÜDA-PAR, Hizbullah or ‘Kurdish Hamas’, which has almost no chance of even thinking of this, would be caged again with an operation like that in the year 2000 before it knew what was happening.
* Amed Dicle was born and raised in Diyarbakır, Turkey. He has worked for Kurdish-language media outlets in Europe including Roj TV, Sterk TV and ANF. His career has taken him to Rojava, Syria, Iraq and many countries across Europe. Follow him on Twitter.